Johan Kaspers

Johan Kaspers

Johan Kaspers had led several leisure companies as manager/director when he founded Brederode Leisure Consultancy in 2009. With this consultancy he has carried out many strategic projects for governments and leisure organisations. From 2013 onwards he played a central role in engaging communities along the river Waal in The Netherlands. In his work he was able to support and stimulate new community festivals and an independent community organisation.

Organising Community Groups For Influencing Policymakers, Sharing Knowledge And Stimulating Ecotourism Along The River Waal

The Netherlands increasingly suffer from very wet and very dry periods. To manage the growing threat of flooding as well as water shortage, the national government devised a programme with radical changes to river flows and landscape. It was thought to be vital that the public understood and had a say in these changes. The province of Gelderland therefore stimulated the forming of community groups to inform and involve the people along her most important river, the Waal.

Within three years around a hundred people got involved in 10 community groups. The leaders of these groups cooperated and started the independent foundation ‘Our Waal’. This foundation operates on three levels: to provide a networking platform along the river, to be a voice for the communities and to stimulate ecotourism. Our Waal works to protect and improve the river landscape, e.g. with iconic trees. It also helps to rediscover the cultural heritage of the river and initiated the rebuilding of parts of the defence system of the 17th century. This is now drawing the attention of citizens as well as tourists.

In this session we will look at how the process of involving communities was executed, and what in retrospect has worked and what did not. A special focus will lie on the problems of constructing a financial basis for the activities of the foundation ‘Our Waal’ and on the struggle to keep the network of communities going. The speaker played an important role in the process leading to the foundation and is still involved in its work. During the session there will, at several points, be questions for the audience to also learn from their knowledge of the topics described.

Experience The River Waal

Experience The Waal is a unique project stimulating recreational and cultural projects with local communities in a sustainable way. The Waal is part of the Rhine system and Western Europes´ largest and busiest river. Experience the Waal is part of a larger programme called WaalWeelde (‘WaalWealth’) by the province of Gelderland, developing a safe and beautiful river. The main goals of Experience the Waal are a river that can be experienced and projects to better the local economy.

Experience the Waal started in 2012 with some 200 representatives from local businesses, cultural organisations, residents and governments. In the following months many ideas were proposed in workshops. From the large number of people involved, a smaller group formed a community of practice to develop ideas. The province provided this community of practice with a budget to organise people on a local scale. The work was aided by an Experience Agent supporting individual initiators, connecting people, organising meetings and helping to find money to realise projects.

Through the years the process led to a strong bond within the community of practice, as well as more than 30 new events and more than 10 tourist routes. Examples are river bank cleaning projects, open air theatre events and themed routes. In 2015 the community of practice led to the foundation Onze Waal (‘Our Waal’). Through the years the province has downsized its efforts and will in 2017 hand over the initiative to the foundation.

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